The shadow was Mo Ruyan. She was faster than the others but she didn’t show herself until she was sure the enemy wasn’t still there. Everybody was standing in a circle holding their torches and weapons. They were looking at someone lying on the ground. It was Feng II.
He was in his early twenties. He was wearing the uniform of the Far Ink Professional Organization and lying in a pool of blood. There was a hole in his chest. His heart had been taken from his body. It was obvious he was dead.
“Someone tore his heart off from his chest with their bare hands, maybe claws. They were extremely fast,” said an old man who was crouching next to the corpse.
“With whom did Feng II stay today?” asked Mo Ruyan calmly.
“Me,” someone said with a lowered head.
He was the one who had shouted that Feng II had disappeared.
“Did you hear anything before it happened? Did you notice anything?” asked Mo Ruyan.
“No. He said he was going ahead a little and then he shouted,” said the man.
He was shaking his head. He felt guilty.
“Alright, you can go back. The others, continue looking for the enemy,” said Mo Ruyan.
“Roger!” they said.
Everyone of them dispersed. They hadn’t found the enemy, so the latter could attack by surprise again anytime. They had to be cautious. The old man stayed where the corpse was.
“Uncle Cai, do you think you know who the murderer is?” asked Mo Ruyan after everybody left.
“Even though Feng II’s heart has been pulled out, the contour of the wound is dark. They used poison, too. I’m not sure about any other details,” said Uncle Cai.
“Poison? After his heart was removed, he was doomed anyway. Why poison him?” asked Mo Ruyan frowning.
“Indeed. Some fierce and cruel martial artists are of the same sort as the five poisonous creatures (translator’s note: scorpions, vipers, centipedes, house lizards and toads). Poison is an inherent part of their attacks,” said Uncle Cai doubtfully.
“Uncle Cai, there is no need to beat around the bush with me. If you have something to say, say it,” said Mo Ruyan.
He looked even more hesitant.
“Is there something you can’t say?” said Mo Ruyan.
“Feng II’s condition reminds me of a legend,” said Uncle Cai finally.
“What legend?” asked Mo Ruyan.
“Actually, it’s not a legend. A good friend of mine saw it happen with his own eyes. It was similar. Some people had their hearts removed and the contour of the wounds were black,” said Uncle Cai.
“So the murderer could be the same person?” asked Mo Ruyan immediately.
“No. The murderer wasn’t a person, to be honest,” said Uncle Cai taking a deep breath.
“Not a person?” said Mo Ruyan in surprise.
“Indeed. My friend was lucky. A powerful person saved him. His friends were all killed though and the murderer was a zombie,” said Uncle Cai.
“Zombie?” Mo Ruyan said as her heart started pounding.
“Indeed. A zombie. My friend stopped traveling because of that. When you grow old, you’re less brave. It’s normal,” said Uncle Cai sighing.
As people got older, they became more vigilant, because they witnessed more horrors. The more they saw, the less they dared.
“Hmph! I don’t care whether the murderer is a human being or not. Since he’s here, he won’t leave. We can’t let anyone kill members of the Far Ink Professional Organization,” said Mo Ruyan.
She sounded angry. Uncle Cai looked at her worriedly. He didn’t know what to say.
Mo Ruyan was young and fearless. She was brave. Since she had started her career, she had never faced any real problems. She was really strong and proud. She had never seen a zombie either so she wasn’t scared.
Uncle Cai said nothing in response because someone screamed again. This time it came from inside the wrecked Taoist temple. Mo Ruyan started running towards the temple. Uncle Cai was terrified that something would happen to her so he followed.
Even though Mu Yi was in the carriage, he heard everything that was happening outside, including Mo Ruyan and Uncle Cai’s conversation. He had sensed some cold Qi flickering when Feng II had screamed but the murderer had been too fast so Mu Yi had lost track of him. When he heard Uncle Cai’s explanation, he realized something.
If it was a zombie, then Mu Yi was convinced Mo Ruyan was strong enough to fight against it. He didn’t need to help. He couldn’t stop the ritual just for that.
During the journey, the Bamboo Tree of Life had already become an extraordinary object. Before the ritual, it was already glittering and translucent. It was even more beautiful than jade or jadeite now. It also looked a bit moist. If anyone saw it, they would fall in love with it.
Mu Yi also sensed that Nian Nuer was becoming stronger inside. It was also the reason why she loved sleeping in the tree, because she could become stronger while sleeping in that familiar place.
Mu Yi was convinced that after the ritual, Nian Nuer would be able to borrow the strength of the Bamboo Tree of Life to become a fierce ghost. Fierce ghosts had a strength similar to people who had reached the second difficulty. She would be able to genuinely assist Mu Yi at that time.
Therefore, Mu Yi couldn’t wait for Nian Nuer to become a fierce ghost. Nian Nuer needed time to become a fierce ghost. Mu Yi had started the ritual a little over twenty days ago. He was halfway through with it but it was getting more and more difficult.
Mo Ruyan arrived in the wrecked Taoist temple. She glanced around. Someone was lying in a pool of blood and his heart had been removed just like Feng II.
“Who was with him just before?” asked Mo Ruyan without wasting time.
“Me,” said someone taking a step forward.
His face was pale. He looked terrified.
“Did you see anything?” asked Mo Ruyan.
“I, I…” said the man in shock.
“Don’t be scared, tell us,” said Uncle Cai trying to coax him.
He glanced at Uncle Cai and then started to talk.